I'm generally a "buy local" kind of guy. When I want to purchase coffee, books or a good meal, my first inclination is to patronize businesses owned by people who actually live in Lawrence. One of the things I like about this city is that I can do so, generally, without sacrificing quality.So it distresses me somewhat to make the following admission:In the last two years, I've patronized the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library far more often than the Lawrence Public Library. I've certainly checked out more books down the road; I've probably walked through the doors more often there.The library in Topeka is purely, simply better.The collection of materials there is more than double the size of the Lawrence library - it has been much easier for me to find the books I want in Topeka. It's easier to find an open computer for quick Internet access. And if I want a cup of coffee or sandwich to cozy up with my book, well, I can wander down to the Topeka library's in-house cafe. Lawrence's library is relatively puny. There's a reason for this: The Topeka library there has a budget more than four times as large as the one here.I mention all this because city officials are considering an effort to expand the library here. Considering that Lawrence has one of the most-educated populations in the nation - a citizenry hungry for books and culture - that's not a bad idea. And as they get the expansion underway, all eyes are on Topeka. It's probably fair to say that we have a case of library envy.But maybe we shouldn't.Topeka, it goes without saying, is different than Lawrence. I don't live there, so my observation might be incorrect, but it appears to me that the library there serves as a gathering place for the community - thus the giant meeting rooms, the cafe, the art exhibitions.Lawrence already has all those things in one spot. It's called downtown.Downtown Lawrence on a spring, summer or fall afternoon is a magnificent place. Hundreds of people walking the sidewalks, listening to street musicians, sipping beverages on coffee shop porches, ducking into galleries to look at local art and generally hanging out.Downtown Topeka is, by comparison, decimated.So what Topeka needs and gets from its library is a cultural center, a place for people to experience community. Lawrence already has that.Lawrence's library is on the path to improvement, but it can use more. I look forward to the day where it's easier to find the book I want here than in Topeka.But we should drop the case of library envy as we consider the future. We don't need a library that competes with the one in Topeka. We need the best library for Lawrence.